As the trials for a California man and woman accused of killing two children nears, details emerged on the children’s days of horror, neglect, and abuse.
Earlier this month, the Californian reported that Gonzalo Curiel, 20, and Tami Joy Huntsman, 42, learned that they’ll have separate trials, starting in March and Oct., where they’ll face murder, torture, and child abuse charges in connection with the deaths of two children, Shaun Tara, 6, and his sister, Delylah, 3.
They’ll also faces charges of child abuse abuse and torture in connection with a third child, a 9-year-old identified as “Jane Doe.” The tragic incident occurred inside a tiny apartment at 501 Fremont St. in Salinas, said to be filthy and filled with lice and insects.
According to court documents, on Thanksgiving 2015, Huntsman received a free turkey for her family, which at the time included her boyfriend, Curiel, the three children, and Huntsman’s two biological children. Huntsman, the three victims’ aunt, was granted custody of them after their mother passed away and their father was sentenced to prison for drug offenses.
Jane Doe, the oldest sibling, grabbed a bagel to eat, apparently after Huntsman refused to share the turkey with the children. What came after was alleged beatings so severe that it ultimately killed Shaun and Delylah.
“Jane Doe stole a bagel on Thanksgiving that led to the beatings, the hardest and strongest beatings, that led to the two other kids’ deaths,” said deputy DA, Steve Somers. “She (Jane Doe) feels tremendous weight and responsibility.”
After the children’s deaths, Curiel and Huntsman reportedly drove the tiny bodies 300 miles away, where they allegedly stored the kids in a storage building in Redding. Jane Doe survived the ordeal but was later found locked inside an SUV in Quincy. She was hospitalized for severe malnutrition.
“She was the living, breathing example of what’s depicted in concentration camp photos,” Plumas County Sheriff Hagwood said, according to The Sacramento Bee. “It’s challenging to witness that firsthand and know it’s not motivated politically but out of the viciousness of another human being.”
When Huntsman’s mother, Joy Tara, learned the girl was in the hospital, she contacted the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities had no idea that the little girl had two younger siblings until Tara informed them.
“They could be on the side of the road, or buried somewhere,” Tara told Plumas County Sheriff’s Det. Steve Peay at the time, according to KSBW.
Huntsman reportedly told her mother in Nov. 2015 she gave the two children to “an agency,” but when pressed, she couldn’t remember the name of it. Authorities detained the suspects and Curiel allegedly admitted that the children had been taken to “storage bins.” Authorities later found the lifeless bodies of Shaun and Delylah stuffed inside a blue storage bin, inside a public storage facility in Redding.
Later, Tara placed the blame almost exclusively on Curiel.
“99.9 percent of this is Gonzo. Gonzo would starve and beat those kids,” Tara said. “I can vouch for that.”
The abuse inside Huntsman’s apartment, according to the prosecution, was an ongoing thing. Along with starving the kids, the suspects are also accused of locking the three victims in the bathroom for extended periods of time and making them bathe in cold water.
Monterey County Department of Social Services workers visited the apartment on numerous occasions after child abuse and neglect complaints, yet they never found enough evidence to take the children away, according to Monterey County Weekly.
The children reportedly had lice in their hair and insect bites on their skin, but told social services workers that “Aunt Tam” never hit them. One of the children said an older family member struck them with a belt, but when interviewed, Huntsman claimed she knew nothing about it but would ensure it didn’t happen again.
“There appeared to be no imminent safety threats at this time,” one report read, indicating that poverty isn’t a crime and Huntsman had her own children to take care, along with her nephew and nieces.
In Sept., social services attempted to contact Huntsman at least eight times, but she never responded. The agency sent out a letter to her, which she didn’t respond to.
Huntsman’s trial is scheduled for March, while Curiel’s is scheduled for Oct. Jane Doe, who is said to hold extreme guilt over her siblings’ deaths, will testify at both trials, forcing her to relive the trauma again on two separate occasions. Both suspects face murder, torture, and child abuse charges.
Check back with CrimeOnline as we continue to cover the story.
[Feature Photo: Shaun Tara and Delylah Tara/Family Handout]